VoIP providers for home use

Just wanted to mention a few VoIP providers that I use on my home Asterisk system.

  • VoiceStick / i2telecom – Using their Next2Nothing plan (pay-as-you-go) I have a DID number local to my parents. They dial a local number and I pay 1.2 cents per minute plus a couple dollars a month for “911 recovery fee” (for an incoming-only phone number!). Audio quality has been excellent. If it weren’t, my family members would surely tell me so.
  • FWD – every homebrew VoIP system should connect with FWD. Why? Well, because it’s free! I am connecting using both SIP and IAX2. I use it only to connect to toll-free numbers and to test connectivity using some of its test numbers.
  • Gizmo Project – here’s a clever way to get a free DID number thanks to Gizmo Project and Google’s Grand Central. Sign up for a free Gizmo account, set it up in Asterisk and make sure it works. Then sign up for Grand Central. (Need an account? Leave a comment and I’ll send you an invitation.) You can point your Grand Central number to your Gizmo account. Result: People call your Grand Central number (a regular phone number) and your VoIP system receives it.

    Cool, until you decide it’s annoying to respond to Grand Central’s “Press 1 to accept the call…” menu every time your phone rings. Instead, make Asterisk “press 1” for you when a call comes in and before delivering the call to your phone.

    Put a custom context in Gizmo’s peer definition, like this:


    Then create that custom context in extensions_custom.conf (for FreePBX) or directly in extensions.conf if you’re hand-editing plain Asterisk:

    [custom-gizmo-in] exten => s,1,Answer exten => s,2,Wait(1) exten => s,3,SendDTMF(1) exten => s,4,Goto(from-pstn,s,1)

    (The goto in step 4 sends the call to the generic “incoming” context after the DTMF “1”; modify as necessary.)

  • ??? – I use a cheap termination service (outbound calling) whose terms of service state that “All customers … are specifically prohibited from disclosing to others that they use [the provider’s] service.” I leave it as a mystery for the reader. (However, I’m pretty sure I heard of this provider by word-of-mouth — contract-breacher!)
  • CallCentric – This one is on my radar. I am signed up for their free service and a single “Cheap DID” to test things out. So far I have been very impressed with their customer service (answering a non-trouble question ticket within two hours), the sound quality, pricing, and availability of DID numbers. It seems like they offer DIDs everywhere and can port (LNP) just about any number. I may port my listed home phone number (currently not connected to my VoIP setup) to this carrier.

No mention of the big guys: Vonage, Packet8, or AT&T or Verizon’s VoIP service, for three reasons. One, most don’t allow you to connect to them using a PBX (Asterisk). Two, they’re expensive. And three, if you’re home-brewing VoIP, you are probably a geek or trying to “stick it to the man.” I realize that some of the carriers that look like “little guys” really have big guys behind them, but many of them don’t. They’re just trying to make a little money reselling service from wholesale carriers and adding their own little features to make telephony a little cooler or more fun.

Maybe not

Maybe VoIP adoption in EDU isn’t slowing down just yet. The VoIP and Gadgets blog pointed to this article about the University of Cambridge, British Telecom and Cisco teaming up to install an IP solution for 20,000 phones.

As Penn State gets closer to its deployment goal of around 16,000 phones, it’s nice to know that there are some other big EDU players going with Cisco.

Has EDU VoIP adoption stalled out?

Two of my favorite Google searches are “site:edu voip blog” and the simpler “site:edu voip“. The first search helps me find edu-people (faculty and staff) who might be blogging about VoIP. There aren’t many. The second search just looks through all of .edu for the term “VoIP.”

Maybe I need to add some more parameters to my search, but what I’m finding is a whole lot of the same old. If universities are moving to VoIP, their web sites aren’t reflecting it. And I wish some of my counterparts at other universities would share their thoughts in blogs.

While I’m complaining, I’ll also mention that Internet2’s SIP.edu also seems to be quite stale.

Higher ed and related research institutions and committees invented much of the Internet as we know it today. Is the current generation of higher ed/research doing the same thing with VoIP?